Sunday Musings: Keith Smart and the holiday tie

My Sunday Musings columns have become the highlight of my week here at Cowbell Kingdom. They are a break from the recaps and pure basketball columns that fill up a lot of our time here. It is a chance for me to talk about mismatched socks or taking in a baseball game with one of my sons. They are also a place where I can just write freely and share a bit of myself with readers like you.

Most of you know by now that before being a basketball writer, I am a husband and father first (in no particular order). Being a father is something I have in common with Sacramento Kings head coach Keith Smart and plenty of you out there in Kings’ land.

I have written about my nine-year old in the past, but my youngest son is five and has a heart of gold. For the Christmas season, his school has what they call the “Mistletoe Mall”. Parents send in a little bit of money and their kids get to go and buy Christmas gifts for their family members. It is an exercise in budgeting and thinking of others. If you are lucky enough to have something like this at your child’s school, you can appreciate the idea.

I haven’t seen the set-up – it is supposed to be a surprise after all. But I can imagine an elementary school lunchroom turned into a glorified swap meet. Small gifts ranging from 25 cents to $15 are broken into categories. Tools and such for dad, gifts for mom or grandma grouped together at a separate table. I think you get the gist.

While my youngest is bright, he is a free spirit, impetuous and lives in the moment. He knows that I have to leave at night to go “talk to the Kings”, but I’m not sure that he understands what I do at Sleep Train Arena. Before each and every game, he hugs me goodbye and critiques my outfit for the evening. It is our ritual.

My little guy was so excited to give me my Christmas present early. He knew I had a game last Sunday and he wanted me to look festive. On his own, he picked out a holiday tie for me. You know the one: paper thin, bright green with candy canes and of course, if you squeeze the bottom of it, Jingle Bells plays in a funky, little-electronic way.

I’m a dad first. I would never even consider bringing a second tie to switch out on the way to the game, so I took some ribbing when I entered the arena. I got a few smirks and “nice tie” comments, but I explained that it was a gift from my five-year-old and most people got it.

When I walked into the coaching scrums with Keith Smart and Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, they both commented and accepted my explanation with a smile and head nod. They understood.

Well, low and behold, the Kings won last Sunday and after making my way through their locker room for post-game conversation (which included our friend Sam Amick squeezing my tie and setting off the holiday jingle during the middle of a Travis Outlaw interview), I stopped by the coach’s office to wish Smart happy holidays. He of course reciprocated the greeting, but before I left, he added: “Since we won tonight, I’m going to expect to see that tie at the next home game.”

Being slightly superstitious, I took coach Smart’s request to heart. On Friday evening, as I prepared for the Kings/Knicks match-up, the green holiday tie given to me by my five-year-old found its way into my outfit. And once again, the Kings were victorious.

Following his postgame presser on Friday night, I pointed to the tie and coach Smart gave a chuckle and said he expects to see it again today when the Kings take on the Boston Celtics. Smart and his team need all the luck they can get at this point and who am I to question the basketball gods.

So this is the story of a green holiday tie that will eventually find it’s way into a picture frame for my son to keep forever. He doesn’t understand it now, but his precious gift is part of a collection of stories that his dad has from the time in his life when he covered the Sacramento Kings. Definitely one of the best Christmas gifts ever.

Since this is the last Sunday Musings post of 2012, I would like to take this time to thank the readers of Cowbell Kingdom for their amazing support this year. This has been by far our most successful season covering the Kings to date and we are looking forward to giving you even more frontline coverage in 2013.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also provides game day coverage for NBA.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart".